Tag Archives: Eva Green

New Shows + Movies by Women — November 6, 2020

The first week of November sees essentially every Christmas movie from the past 20 years flood onto streaming services. This includes past theatrical releases and a deluge of Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas romantic comedies. Hulu and Amazon are good places to look for those. (Any new ones will come out closer to the holiday itself.)

As I was researching through them, one in particular caught my attention: Sophia Takal’s horror movie “Black Christmas”. This came out in 2019 and I remember the trailers looked intriguing. A group of women in college find themselves being picked off one by one and set out to find the killers.

“Black Christmas” got a full release in theaters months before the pandemic closed them down. While it’s not technically new, it did come to HBO Max this past week.

Here’s what’s most interesting about “Black Christmas” to me. It has a 3.3 rating on IMDB. That sucks. Why would that be interesting?

Look at a few of these reviews and you’ll notice that a swamp of negative ones all mention the film’s feminism as a reason for their low score. This tends to happen on particular sites, IMDB being one of them. Misogynist groups often look for movies, series, books, and games that they can review-bomb with bad user reviews.

Let’s see what critics thought: it has a score of 49 on Metacritic. Also not good, with a very even spread: 9 positive, 8 mixed, and 8 negative reviews. Who are those reviews by, though?

Among women critics: 4 positive, 3 mixed, and only 1 negative review.
Among male critics: 3 positive, 5 mixed, and 7 negative reviews.
Among non-binary critics: 1 positive review.

Simplify it a bit and the difference is even clearer. Which critics scored the film above or below 50?

Among women, 7 scored it above, one scored it below.
Among men, 7 scored it above, and 9 scored it below.
One non-binary critic scored it above 50.

It is pretty clear that there is a marked difference in how women saw this movie vs. how men did. This is why aggregates only mean so much, especially in an era where anyone who hates a feminist theme can create five accounts to tell you how much they hate it.

When you see something that seems feminist, anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ, or standing up for any other marginalized group reviewed badly on a site like IMDB, it’s often worth it to take a quick scan through the user reviews themselves. Sometimes they really will be bad movies. Sometimes they’ll be hidden gems. Sometimes they’ll be in the middle: solid, fun movies that are worth a watch.

If you see a lot of user reviews complaining about feminism or diversity or whatever it is, recognize that score is less likely to be representative of the film and your experience watching it.

Seek out critics you trust, and if you do use a review aggregator like Metacritic to help you choose what you watch next, it lists the names of critics right beside their scores. Do you see a big difference in who those names represent as the scores go up or down? It may be worth a closer look.

I don’t know if the movie’s good or bad, but I do know one thing: I really want to see it now.

Like I said, director Sophia Takal’s “Black Christmas” is now out on HBO Max. She wrote it with April Wolfe. It stars Imogen Poots and centers around an ensemble of women.

Now let’s get onto the new stuff. It’s only a few entries this week:

NEW SERIES

Wrong Kind of Black (Netflix)
directed by Catriona McKenzie

This 4-episode Australian series follows DJ Monty Pryor in the 1960s and 70s. Pryor is a real person who uses a range of art to tell indigenous Australian stories, and was the first Australian Children’s Laureate. Here, he narrates the story of his early adulthood.

Catriona McKenzie is an indigenous Australian director who’s helmed a number of series there. She’s directed on some shows that may be more familiar to U.S. readers as well: including “How to Get Away with Murder”, “Riverdale”, and “Supernatural”.

You can watch “Wrong Kind of Black” on Netflix with a subscription.

Love & Anarchy (Netflix)
directed by Lisa Langseth

Sofie is a consultant who’s sent to modernize an old-fashioned publishing house. It doesn’t turn out to be a good fit immediately. Then she meets a young IT professional. The two start a competition where they challenge each other to cross social norms and take increasingly daring risks.

Series creator, showrunner, director, and co-writer Lisa Langseth is a major filmmaker in Sweden. She’s actually been a big factor in Alicia Vikander’s career. All three of Langseth’s feature films have cast her in a leading role: “Pure”, “Hotell”, and “Euphoria”.

You can watch “Love & Anarchy” on Netflix with a subscription.

NEW MOVIES

Proxima (VOD)
directed by Alice Winocour

“Proxima” tells the story of a woman preparing for a year aboard the International Space Station. Sarah is played by Eva Green, and she has to deal with doubtful colleagues and being away from her daughter for an entire year. The film centers around the concept that forcing women to choose between career and family is a false choice (and one that’s rarely asked of men). Green’s performance in particular has been lauded.

Writer-director Alice Winocour has built a pretty remarkable career in only a few films. “Mustang”, which she co-wrote with Deniz Gamze Erguven, was France’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film for 2015. As a director, “Proxima” is her third film after “Augustine” and “Disorder”.

You can rent “Proxima” through Amazon, Fandango Now, or iTunes.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Learn to Hate Women, Vignette Style — “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”

Sin City 2 design a better set

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For would be a lot better if it didn’t seem like a Men’s Rights recruitment ad. Every woman in the film is either manipulating a man, getting beaten, or pining for a man who couldn’t care less about her. Often all three at once.

I’m a big fan of the noir that Sin City 2 is riffing, but for all its slick prose and stylish affectations, I don’t think co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez have watched much of the genre lately. The film, like predecessor Sin City nine years ago, is based on the graphic novels by Miller (who also originated the 300 franchise). It poses a dirty, corrupt city where everyone’s a criminal – especially the cops and politicians. Gangsters and thugs aren’t any better, except for the five minutes in their lives when a petite blonde reminds them to be.

Visually, Sin City 2 is stunning…for the first 20 minutes. It’s black-and-white with thick shadows the way you’d find in a graphic novel, but with highlights of color – a woman’s bright blue dress, or blonde hair, or the red of a police car’s flashing lights. After the first few sequences, however, the visuals become predictable, surprisingly spare, and even repetitive.

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We follow a few short stories, each one breaking for another and promising to return later. The first Sin City pulled this off successfully because it relied on Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and Clive Owen to lead tragic vignettes. Those three can each squint and growl their way through a dozen noirs before breakfast. This second entry follows Rourke (The Wrestler), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper), Josh Brolin, and Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four).

Parts of Sin City 2 boast a strong narrative. These involve Rourke’s stone wall of a bouncer Marv and Gordon-Levitt’s cardsharp with daddy issues, Johnny. Both actors have a mastery for the kind of curt, metaphor-rich language the film asks them to recite. Even Alba, as stripper-out-for-vengeance Nancy, has hugely improved her control of noir dialogue from the first film.

The weak spot is Brolin (W.), who is actually playing the same character Clive Owen (Children of Men) did in the first Sin City. Brolin is many things, but a rebellious Welshman isn’t one of them. He can’t hack the noir language and his version of Owen’s sneering growl is to stare blankly ahead and mumble. He underplays the central role when everyone else is overacting their pants off. Literally. No one keeps their pants on for longer than 10 minutes in this movie.

Eva Green plays the manipulative Ava. As she’s shown in 300: Rise of an Empire and Dark Shadows, she’s the industry standard for deliciously overplaying villains in otherwise unwatchable movies. It’s strange that, instead of using her talents, the film grinds to a halt for 20 minutes of creepily voyeuristic worship of Green. I get it, she’s attractive. She’s also won a British Academy Award. Maybe the film can move on to, say, some acting?

Sin City 2 lead

Brolin and Green’s story is the most central and longest in the film. Unfortunately, it’s a complete mess, and it makes the much better stories surrounding it begin to try your patience. That’s never a good sign for a film only a few minutes over an hour-and-a-half. Rourke, Gordon-Levitt, and Alba gamely try to save things, but even their powers combined can only lift the movie from disastrous to bothersome.

What’s most frustrating is that noir movies were the place where women first exerted their power on film. Actresses like Ida Lupino in the 1940s began playing villains and strong femme fatales. While these characters manipulated others, they did so with their intelligence and wit, not by bedding every other character. They were dangerous because they were capable. The women in Sin City 2 aren’t capable. They’re posed as either powerless or deceitful – not because of their intelligence, mind you, but because the movie would have you believe that’s what women are underneath.

The film’s a cinematic, storytelling, and performance mess even before we get to the social commentary, but its backwards views on women are much more important to call out. In a summer where every action movie – even last week’s 1980s throwback The Expendables 3 – has balanced old-fashioned perspectives and style with increased inclusion of female heroes, ethnically diverse casts, and even disabled protagonists, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For feels unneeded, ill-advised, and a little bit sickening.

It’s rated R for violence, sexual content, nudity, and drug use, but it still manages to be boring.

“300: Rise of an Empire” a Colossal Disappointment

300r Eva Green.tiff

The first 300 was, ostensibly, a movie about men in their underwear hacking at each other with swords in slow-motion. Needless to say, the girl I was dating at the time declared it her “new favorite movie ever.” It was also an art movie told through action scenes.

What I remember best from 300 isn’t any particular fight, though. I remember the field in which Sparta’s King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) says his goodbyes to Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) before heading off to battle. As much as that film glorified war, it also glorified a field of wheat in sunrise as the wind carried through it. It made going to battle a bittersweet, complex choice, and it glorified the reasons to stay home just as much. It was the rare action movie from which liberals and conservatives both lifted messages, and that both sides still argue is “theirs.”

300: BATTLE OF ARTEMESIUM

The sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, is not an art movie. It’s an action movie that looks artful because if it didn’t, it couldn’t call itself 300. What it champions is warmongering. There’s not a single scene that shows us what’s at stake. Our Athenian hero Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), who dreams of a united Greece, treats Athens like his own private, military dictatorship. You might expect this in itself to be a strong political statement, but nope – it just hurries the plot along faster if the screenwriters don’t require anyone else to speak.

300: Rise of an Empire also makes its villain far more interesting than its hero, but commits the cardinal sin of not realizing this. We cheered for Leonidas in the first film because Butler knew a movie filmed entirely in front of a green screen needed an anchor. He needed to act like the audience was 1,000 feet away, so he had to shout and wink and chew every piece of nonexistent scenery just to match the tone of his CG surroundings. This time around, it’s Eva Green (Casino Royale) who snarls and sneers and stares piercingly through every line of dialogue. She plays the evil Persian general Artemisia as if Darth Vader found the goth section of Katy Perry’s wardrobe.

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The film gives Artemisia such a tragic backstory that you’d be a terrible person to root against such a survivor. I tire of boys in genre movies being captured and trained to be gruff and manly and fight as noble gladiators while the narrative equivalent for girls is to be sexually abused. It’s needless, lazy, and offensive. Combine such tragedy with Green acting circles around the rest of the cast and Themistokles’s incessant blandness, and I found myself rooting hard for Artemisia to win the day.

Yes, in the film, Greece represents democracy, Persia represents slavery, and Themistokles can’t sneeze without trumpeting the word “freedom,” but the movie does an awful job of championing any of these ideas or showing them in practice. When Themistokles isn’t outguiling bad guys, he spends all his time trying to get Mel Gibson’s Braveheart monologue right. I stopped counting at the sixth attempt. There’s some fresh air when Sparta’s Queen Gorgo finally gets involved (I’d much rather the movie had followed her into battle), but it’s too little too late.

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Some of the art direction is inspired – particularly in the first two battles when the actors are the focus. As more CG is involved, however, the mostly naval battles feel increasingly generic and fast-forwarded. Zack Snyder, who directed the first 300, was smart enough to treat his visual effects in a painterly way. Graphics were to add background and tone, to emphasize the human form or, at most, to create some unspeakable enemy. When there was blood and viscera, it was strangely beautiful, and clarified each move of the fight choreography by extending it into an arc of unreal color. In Noam Murro’s sequel, the effects increasingly take over the battles and play both hero and enemy. Blood gushes everywhere for the shock of it and, like most shocking effects, becomes quickly tiresome.

As for 3D, Murro often washes out his backgrounds with shafts of sunlight or flashes of light in darkness. These are nice effects in 2D, but have the tendency to blur out details and strain viewers’ eyes in 3D. 300: Rise of an Empire is rated R for pretty much everything – bloody violence, sex, nudity, and some language. The first 300 used these things to make a point. It’s hard to forgive its sequel for not bothering to have one.

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